March 7, 2023
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Last Updated on April 6, 2023 by Verna Meachum
Growing up, I was always trying to find ways to make my hair look longer and healthier. I started using relaxers on my hair, dyeing it with bleach, and flat ironing it every week (sometimes daily), then it all went downhill from there when my hair started thinning due to damage.
With my hair becoming increasingly sparse, I feared that balding was inevitable.
However, what I didn’t realize is that I had high-porosity hair – a term which means the cuticles of your strands are raised, allowing moisture from water or products to enter easily but also escape just as quickly.
As a result, my hair was constantly dry, brittle, and breaking no matter how much product or oil I used. Extensions were the only way for me to get that long and luscious look until one day when all hope seemed lost…
I stumbled upon an article about high-porosity hair care and it changed everything! It explained why high-porosity hair is a common issue where your hair doesn’t retain moisture very well and gets dried out quickly, so on and so forth.
My newfound knowledge revolutionized how I treated my curls going forward – with love, gentleness, patience…and the right set of products tailored for those with high-porosity hair like me!
And sure enough, after months of sticking to this routine faithfully (and foregoing flat irons altogether), you can now see healthy curls framing my face in place of breakage – proof that there really is something special about being able to take care of oneself despite trying circumstances.
If you’re struggling with your own crowning glory too then don’t give up – there’s help out there if you know where to look!
That’s why today, I want to share with you some of the best high-porosity hair products that have helped keep my curls flourishing and healthy!
In today’s post, I’ll break it down the best ingredients to look for in quality curl cream for high porosity hair.
We’ll also go over what high-porosity hair is and why curly hair needs a good curl-defining cream. Lastly, we’ll discuss the products that are the best picks to optimize its health!
Hair porosity is often explained as the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture. However, highly porous hair implies damage has occurred since it does not repel water efficiently and absorb water proficiently. This can also be understood in terms of its ability to maintain moisture levels due to a broken cuticle layer that affects how well it retains moisture.
Porosity can be broken down into three distinct groups: high, normal (medium), and low. The level of porosity is determined based on the surface’s pore size, number of pores, as well as its volume of pores.
Thus, having high porosity hair means it’s likely damaged due to cracks in the surface layer of your hair.
This type of hair can quickly absorb moisture due to raised or lifted cuticles; it is also why when performing the “Float Test” the individual hair strand is easier to absorb water and sink faster.
Those with high porosity hair have larger-sized pores, numerous open pores, and a lot of space between the cortex matrix layers. Usually, chemical processes such as bleaching, coloring, and intense heating result in high-porosity hair.
Low porosity hair is not damaged and repels water very well. This type of hair usually has a higher cuticle layer and lay flat, making it harder to absorb moisture. It has fewer openings with smaller pores that make it almost impossible for the hair to absorb moisture, making hydration a tricky task.
Those with Medium Porosity Hair have cuticle openings and pores in the middle range of size, meaning that small molecules including active ingredients and water can pass through without any trouble.
Evaluating your hair’s porosity requires advanced instruments, such as the gas adsorption method.
For the most exact calculation of porosity, the gas adsorption method is unrivaled. It offers valuable information on both pore size and specific surface area.
Pinpointing your hair porosity accurately can be quite a daunting task for many reasons.
1) Since everyone’s hair is unique, not all of your hair will share the same porosity levels. Typically, the newer strands closest to your scalp exhibit lower porosity while those at the ends are more porous.
2) Hair with high porosity is compromised – the cuticles are lifted and jagged, unable to lay flat. This results in a weakened state of your strands that may be difficult to recover and repair.
3) You don’t need to repair something that isn’t broken; if you have low porosity hair, it means the cuticle layer is flattened and healthy. All you must do to keep your locks looking fabulous is simply condition them regularly.
4) The porosity of your hair will likely change over time due to environmental and lifestyle factors, so it’s essential to stay on top of its condition.
If you are curious to know what your hair porosity is, there is a relatively simple test that you can do in the comfort of your own home. Although this method isn’t foolproof and shouldn’t be relied upon for accurate results, it’s still an effective place to begin!
Here’s how to do the Float Test:
A curl cream is a rather self-explanatory product; you would anticipate that its purpose could be discerned just from the name, but it’s not only that!
A curl cream is a special formulation that helps to define, shape, and moisturize curls. It targets curly hair to boost its natural curl pattern while keeping it in place for a longer period.
With their unique physicochemical properties and physical characteristics, curls require specialized formulations that can be used for easy styling, day-to-day grooming, and manageable hair.1
A curl cream has the power to simultaneously moisturize your curly hair, serve as a leave-in conditioner, and combat frizz. This product is truly multi-functional.
Consequently, curly hair is left looking bouncy, evenly conditioned, with natural texture, and healthy with a well-defined curl pattern.
These desired results can only be achieved by choosing the right product for curly hair and using it correctly.
If you need a good gel for high porosity hair, read: Best Gels For High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients.
High-porosity hair is porous, damaged, and highly frizzy. It lacks moisture, feels rough, and is extremely dry. It is also difficult to manage and style on top of that.
Sadly, this is often caused by regular contact with harsh chemical processes, UV radiation, or too much heat when styling your curls – blow drying and flat ironing in particular.
Due to these excessive processes, these hair fibers lose their protein content, cuticles are lost (in severe cases), and severely lack moisture.
Chemical treatments also have a detrimental effect on the natural sheen due to lipid oxidation.2 The resulting combination makes the hair appear highly porous with high pore density and size.3
To nourish and protect high-porosity hair, it needs a customized hair moisturizing and curl-defining formulation to restore its natural bouncy curls and hydrate them adequately.
The product also addresses the problem of static charge, frizz, and style retention to facilitate everyday grooming and manageability.
To learn more about moisturizing high porosity hair, read: How To Moisturize High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients.
As we search for the perfect curl-defining cream, it is important to consider what ingredients should be included and their potential role in the formulation.
The curl cream should include ingredients that help to improve the elasticity of your curls and make them more manageable, while also having a moisturizing, curl-defining, and anti-frizz effect.
Notably, since high porosity hair absorbs moisture quickly, it is critical to remember that this fast absorption leads to a faster loss of moisture if not cared for properly.
Therefore, selecting products with high-quality and natural ingredients that will lock in moisture while delivering definition is essential.
Moisture is vital for healthy curly hair without any frizz. Curl creams need to be rich in hydration to combat the problem of dryness, roughness, and frizz.
Unfortunately, this is not the ideal ingredient for high-porosity curly hair. To be effective in hydration, it requires a high dosage of glycerin which can result in an uncomfortable sticky feel and unpleasant heaviness on curls – something that you definitely don’t want if you’re looking to keep your style natural and bouncy.
Propylene glycol is preferred because of its non-sticky feel. To achieve a more balanced humectant with an even less sticky texture, propylene glycol and glycerin are blended together.
For hydrating ingredients that offer multi-functional benefits, betaine and propanediol are the perfect options. Not only do they both come from natural sources and are environmental-friendly, but their significantly higher water-binding capacity is efficient for dry, rough high porosity hair.
Our order of preference for curl creams are:
● Betaine – preferred
● Propanediol – preferred
● Propylene Glycol – less preferred
● Glycerin – best to avoid if you experience issues with it.
High-porosity needs softening agents to combat surface roughness and make it easy to comb and style.
Cationic surfactants have the remarkable ability to bind hair fiber and align hair cuticles, resulting in a smoother surface that feels soft when touched. Not only this but it reduces fiber-to-fiber friction.
Being cationic, they make them ideal for combatting static charge density, which causes curls to become messy and distorted.
The top choices are:
● Behentrimonium Chloride – (22 carbon long chain) Superior conditioning, smoothness, and detangling.
● Behentrimonium Methosulfate – (22 carbon long chain) Sister molecule of Behentrimonium chloride
● Behenamidopropyl Dimethylamine – (22-carbon long chain) excellent remedy to static charge, softness, and slip.
● Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine – (18 carbon long chain), excellent conditioning, detangling, and product texture.
Curl creams are designed to keep your natural curl pattern in place for an extended period. This is done by coating the hair shaft with a film-forming polymer.
These polymers are natural or solely man-made synthetic polymers, created to form a delicate film over the shaft to ensure curls stay in good shape and pattern. Several ingredients can be used for this purpose.
● Methylcellulose – starch-derived polymer, provides a gentle hold.
● Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) – a very traditional hair styling polymer, however, it gives flakes.
● Polyquaternium-11 – synthetic film formed for a better style hold and retention.
● Polyquaternium-28 – superior style hold, resistant to humidity.
Managing the dryness associated with high-porosity hair can be a struggle; it’s often extremely rough, dull, and frizzy.
Fortunately, natural oils offer an ideal solution – they provide impeccable lubrication on the hair cuticles without making them look greasy.
Light-textured oils or butter are preferred for better results due to their gentle and soft texture.
Their lubrication not only preserves the protein content of hair fibers against drastic weather fluctuations but also significantly reduces humidity-induced frizz on high-porosity hair.
Our favorite ingredients are:
● Shea Butter – a rich creamy texture for amazing conditioning, sensorial feel, and shine.
● Mango Seed Butter – a light soft textured emollient for superior sensorial and conditioning, slip.
● Cocoa Butter – a firm textured butter for conditioning, style retention, and curl shape.
● Apricot Kernel Oil – amazing light oil for conditioning, softness, and shine.
● Argan Oil – an amazing recipe for dry, frizzy, and rough hair.
● Baobab Oil – unique natural oil for hair and skin care.
● Avocado Oil – rich blend of fatty molecules and antioxidants.
● Castor Oil – super hydrating natural oil with superior fiber conditioning features.
● Jojoba Oil – a liquid wax with an amazing sensorial and moisturizing effect.
● Coconut Oil – light textured short lauric-rich oil for better oil penetration deep inside hair cortex, shine, and conditioning.
A curl-defining formulation will generally contain a blend comprising two to four natural oils or butter for better and superior results
Proteins offer a multitude of advantages to high-porosity hair, such as fiber strengthening and moisturizing properties.
They replenish the proteins that are lost during chemical treatments, enabling your hair fibers to recover their original mechanical strength.
The top favorite proteins for high-porosity hair are:
● Hydrolyzed Keratin
● Wheat Amino Acids
● Laurdimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Keratin
● Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol
Green tea and Chamomile extracts are known for their scalp-soothing and relaxing effects.4 Both are rich in polyphenols working as antioxidants against free radical-induced damage to scalp cells and hair fiber.
Sugarcane and Apple extracts are popular choices for boosting hair fiber strength, while Horsetail and Fenugreek extracts can help stimulate the scalp to promote healthy hair growth. Additionally, these activities work to prevent any further hair shedding.
High porosity hair needs special care since it’s more prone to dryness and breakage due to the weakened cuticle layer.
So, here are some great curl creams with the ingredients we mentioned above included.
This is a super affordable curl cream that honestly works with most curl types and porosities. I like to pair this with the Bounce Curl gel for maximum definition.
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Propanediol, Fragrance, Polyquaternium-10, Stearalkonium Chloride, Stearyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Seed Oil, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Laminaria Cloustoni (Sea Kelp) Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia (Macadamia) Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Silk Amino Acids, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.
This product is great to use on its own. Although any porosity level can use this curl cream, I love how it works with my hair as well. This is a protein-free product so, if your hair needs protein, I would use a protein treatment before using this to get the best turnout.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua/Eau), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut ) Oil, Cetrimonium Chloride, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Trehalose, Glycerin, Fragrance (Parfum), Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Polyurethane-14, Amp Acrylates Copolymer, PVP, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Panthenol (Pro Vitamin B5), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Beeswax, Tamarindus Indica Fruit Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.
This curl cream is amazing! With just one application, see your curls transform into beautifully defined curls – at least that’s what this product does for me.
Ingredients: Organic Aloe Juice infused with Organic Marshmallow Root, Castor Seed Oil, Shea Butter, Manuka Honey, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Lauric Acid, Beeswax, Caranuba Wax, Centrimonium Chloride, Cellulose Gum, Ginger Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Citric Acid, Fragrance.
If your hair struggles to get curl clumps, then this product is for you! This is one of my favorite curl creams ever! Not only does it moisturize hair but it provides a light hold. It’s concentrated so start with a little bit then work your way up.
This product is protein-free so if you used a protein treatment or deep conditioner with proteins, this makes a great follow-up styler.
Ingredients: Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Caprylic/capric triglyceride, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Cetrimonium Chloride, VP VA/Copolymer, Sorbitol, Astrocaryum Murumuru Seed Butter, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Rosa Cetifolia (Rose) Oil, Crambe Abyssinica Seed oil, Glycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, *Nigella Sativa (Virgin Black Cumin) Oil, Trigonella Foenum-Graecum (Fenugreek) Seed Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) seed oil, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Fragrance (Phthalate Free).*Certified Organic.
It’s been a minute since I used this product, but I love this product. It provides a soft hold so make sure to follow up with a gel. I would recommend the Boucleme gel (so yummy!) for the best results.
Both products have 96-99% naturally derived ingredients, are plant-powered, and are vegan!
Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol, ***Cocos Nucifera (Virgin Coconut) Oil, Glycerin (Vegetable), Diheptyl Succinate, Bis-(Isostearoyl/Oleoyl Isopropyl) Dimonium Methosulfate, Coco-Caprylate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Distearoylethyl Dimonium Chloride, Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Benzyl Alcohol, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Aleurites Moluccana (Kukui) Nut Oil, ***Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, *Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, *Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Red) Peel Oil, *Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, *Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange Sweet) Peel Oil, *Origanum Majorana (Marjoram Sweet) Leaf Oil, *Michelia Alba (Magnolia) Leaf Oil, *Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Dehydroacetic Acid, *Pogostemon Cablin (Patchouli) Leaf Oil, Pentylene Glycol, *Mentha Viridis (Spearmint) Leaf Oil, *Styrax Tonkinensis (Benzoin) Resin Extract, *Cymbopogon Martini (Palmarosa) Leaf Oil, *Michelia Alba (Magnolia) Flower Oil, *Litsea Cubeba (May Chang) Fruit Oil, *Tilia Cordata (Linden) Flower Extract, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Tocopherol, Citric Acid, **Limonene, **Linalool, **Geraniol, **Benzyl Benzoate, **Citral. *Essential Oil. **Potential Allergen. ***Certified Organic. Vegan | Sulphate free | Silicone free | Paraben free | Mineral oil free.
If you have thick curls, then this product is for you! This is another great curl cream that works for low-porosity hair as well. This product helps keep your curl definition intact.
Great to use on its own or with a gel for extra hold.
Ingredients: Water, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Juice, Glycerin (Vegetable), Cetearyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter* ♥, Polysorbate 60, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Oleth-10, Panthenol, Cetrimonium Chloride, PEG-150 Stearate, Steareth-20, Tocopherol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Seed Oil, Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Seed Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Extract, Beta-Carotene, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Silk Powder, Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis Flower Extract, Maltodextrin, Triethyl Citrate, Caprylyl Glycol, Benzoic Acid, Fragrance.
This curl cream is for those who need help with controlling frizz and enhancing the texture of your hair. It’s super lightweight and works with all hair types.
But, I would recommend this product for wavy to curly textures.
Ingredients: water/aqua/eau, glycerin, caprylic/capric triglyceride, cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, oryza sativa (rice) bran oil, citrus aurantium dulcis peel oil*, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter)*, gluconolactone, calcium gluconate, sorbitol powder, cetrimonium chloride, tocopherol, potassium sorbate, nelumbium speciosum (lotus) flower oil*, plumeria alba (frangipani) flower extract, avena sativa (oat) seed extract, vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) seed oil*, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower extract*, eucalyptus globulus leaf extract*, ginkgo biloba leaf extract*, aspalathus linearis leaf extract*, schoenanthus (lemongrass) extract*, honey extract*, sodium benzoate, citric acid, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, linalool†, limonene†.* Certified Organic.†A natural component of essential oils.
I accidentally used this product in place of a deep conditioner on top of my rice water rinse, and the results were beautiful! After using my favorite hair product, I was left with unbelievable hydration and moisture that went beyond words.
The results were simply astounding!
Anyway, this product is remarkable for what it has been designed to do!
Ingredients: Distilled Water Botanically Infused with Chamomile, Calendula, Nettle & Sage, Organic Aloe Vera Juice, Vegetable Glycerine, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Agave Nectar, Meadowfoam Seed Oil, Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Castor Oil, Pro Vitamin B5, Murumuru Butter, Flaxseed Gel, Pracaxi Oil, Cocoa Butter, Marula Oil, Olive Squalane, Potassium Sorbate, Gluconolactone, Sorbic Acid, Phthalate-Free Fragrance, an extra scoop of soulistic flava & LOVE!
High-porosity curly hair consumers flock to Curl Defining Cream, a multi-purpose marvel that moisturizes and softens in one simple step. It’s the perfect solution for those seeking ultimate manageability and effortless styling.
Getting the ideal outcome necessitates selecting the perfect formulation. A short list of our preferred ingredients for a curl-defining cream is provided above. We highly recommend that you inspect these ingredients before purchasing and using them on your hair!
1. Syed, A. N.; Syed, M. In Curly Hair: Structure, Properties, and Care, Society of Cosmetics Chemists, 75th, NY, USA, NY, USA, 2021.
2. Wertz, P. W.; Downing, D. T., Integral lipids of human-hair. Lipids 1988, 23 (9), 878-881.
3. Robinson, V. N. E., A study of damaged hair. J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem. 1976, 27 (4), 155-&.
4. Marsh, J. M.; Davis, S. L.; Fang, R.; Simmonds, M. S.; Groves, P.; Chechik, V., UV Oxidation: Mechanistic Insights Using a Model System. J. Cosmet. Sci. 2021, 72, 697-710.
Printables are part of The Mestiza Muse tools to add to your hair care arsenal.
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My Done For You Free Printables
I had to listen to what my hair needed...my curls are finally ready to take in some moisture again!!!
- renee, Stylist Liaison
- renee, Stylist Liaison
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See how easy the topics are to find on her page (a few posts screenshot)? There is no topic Verna hasn't covered.
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- dominique P, wavy hair enthusiast
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- zoe F, Producer & Host of The Curl Squad
“I was so excited to embrace my curls and take better care of them. As I started to dive in, I immediately became overwhelmed with the information.”
I read books and tried doing things because "that's what I'm supposed to do," but it didn't always work and I didn't understand why. I'm so grateful for Verna and her blog. Her info. actually helped me understand more of the science of why some methods helped and what products or ingredients to use and why. Anyone that compliments my hair and wants to start a curly journey, I tell them to start here. My hair is so much healthier and I'm so happy with it.
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- stephanie, Curly hair enthusiast
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